Announcing our seed fundraise
In the fall of 2017 I returned to work after my first parental leave. Because I had truly unplugged and focused on my son for three months, I was returning to work with a fresh perspective: big ideas, more ambition, and a desire to dive right back into the fast-paced chaotic world of a VC-backed startup.
But my excitement quickly disintegrated as I realized exactly how my parental leave had negatively impacted the business, my team - and in turn, my career.
I returned to a team that was demoralized. My direct reports - ever loyal and hard-working - had routinely worked 14+ hour days to try to hit our sales goals and make up for my absence. Not only did they miss the goals - they didn’t feel supported, and as a result one of my direct reports resigned shortly after I returned.
When I tried to get caught up on everything I’d missed while out, it was nearly impossible. No one remembered what had happened three weeks ago, let alone three months ago. From product improvements to systems changes, everything felt new, different and confusing.
There were critical decisions made without my input while I was out that impacted our team. I disagreed with some of the changes, but had to “live with them.”
And the list went on and on . . . the changes, the issues, the disruption that all stemmed from my parental leave felt insurmountable.
My employer had done everything they thought they could do to make my experience a positive one - including promoting me, and constantly asking what more they could do to help.
Yet there I was dusting off my resume. Because I actually thought it would be easier to move on, and start somewhere fresh, than to dig myself out of this mess.
Confused, I polled my business school peers about their experiences, and the feedback was remarkably consistent: they had absolutely loved the time they’d spent with their newborns, but acknowledged that their time away had had varying degrees of negative impact on their careers.
And that’s when it hit me: paid parental leave is only half the equation. Parental leave without the appropriate support systems in place to make it a success can actually backfire. As companies now offer more and more paid parental leave (which is great), this problem will only increase until we do something about it. Because the more time employees spend away without proper planning and return support the harder it is to reacclimate and continue to thrive at work.
To my surprise, I found a seemingly endless number of vendors and resources to help with the health and parenting aspects of welcoming a baby, but I couldn’t find a single company focused on the career and business impacts of parental leave.
I was dumbfounded. For all that we as a society have done to support women in business, women in leadership, increasing women on boards, how is it possible that such a glaringly obvious problem is left unaddressed?
The birth of Parentaly
I did not quit my job. After a rough return to work experience, I figured out how to become a better manager, better employee and a happier person.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about how incredibly problematic my parental leave had been, and how universal this experience seemed to be. Sure, I had stayed with my company in the end - but even though I wasn’t included in the statistics of mothers dropping out or quitting their jobs, I spent a full six months flailing unproductively.
So I decided to come up with a solution.
One year after returning from parental leave, I began slowly building the first version of Parentaly with my co-founder, Jaime Rooney. We envisioned “career coaching with a point of view” - using online tools to walk women (and eventually men) step-by-step through critical leave activities like coverage planning, and weaving the content in with career coaching sessions. We thought this combination of prescriptive materials and tools combined with career coaching would be an effective combination for expecting parents. We would help them quickly and easily focus on the right things, avoid the wrong things, and then tap into career coaches to help them unblock issues, individualize their plans, and support them through their return to work success.
In February 2019, while Jaime and I were both still working our full time jobs, we launched a pilot of this program. The feedback was wildly positive. So in October 2019, I left my job and officially launched Parentaly. Within one month we had three corporate clients, all of whom were thrilled to offer this as a benefit to their employees.
The early days
We were profitable right out of the gate. We spent our days building, testing, and refining our offering.
Then, six months after launching the business, COVID hit. All new sales conversations evaporated. I also happened to be 20 weeks pregnant with my second child, and my toddler was home due to a daycare shutdown. To call this a challenging period of my life would be an understatement.
But then, a few months into COVID, as the world became more accustomed to this new way of virtual work, the business started to take off again.
By the end of 2020, it seemed like every company wanted to talk to us. Working parents were top of mind to employers.
We began working with phenomenal clients like Zoom, Snap, and Best Buy - companies renowned for their employee-centric and parent-centric priorities. Based on the success of our group coaching programs we were running for our Fortune 500 clients, we launched a similar cross-company program for tech startup clients including Ro, Handshake, Alma and Hunt Club.
In fall 2021 we realized two things: First, what we were doing was working. Second, we could dramatically accelerate our impact if we raised outside capital from the right partners.
Announcing our seed fundraise
Today, I’m excited to share that Parentaly has raised $1.4M in seed funding, led by a syndicate of passionate angel investors (including Nick Cromydas, Godard Abel, Kim Walsh, former Glassdoor executives, and current Hunt Club executives) with participation from 81 Collection and Network Ventures.
We will use this money to do three things:
- Scale growth - we’re bringing on a strong team to accelerate our ability to serve more parents and companies
- Double down on our service quality - we’re building out better backend systems to ensure we can continue to improve customer outcomes and scale rapidly
- Expand our offering - to date, we have only worked with expecting employees. Going forward we’re building a more holistic approach to turning parental leave into a competitive advantage by working with the managers of expecting employees, the HR leaders tasked with creating and monitoring company policies and programs, and the teammates who serve as critical coverage team members
We are also announcing a strategic sales partnership with Hunt Club who will begin to offer our programs to their innovative HR clients, and provide us with critical hiring and talent support.
The path forward
Two and a half years into the business, I’m more motivated and inspired than ever before.
When done right, parental leave does not need to be a disruptive, stressful event in an employees’ career - it can actually be a once or twice in a lifetime opportunity to thoughtfully pause work, and return better than ever. We’re not just helping parents minimize issues - we’re helping them return to more meaningful and motivating roles. We’re helping their direct reports up-level their skill sets. We’re helping companies accelerate their most important milestones and deprioritize or sunset less impactful projects. And after working with over 600 new mothers and fathers this is no longer just an idea - it’s reality.
We are turning parental leave into a competitive advantage - for both the employer and the employee.
We are working with small startups through Fortune 100 corporations. If you think your company should be working with us - we want to hear from you!
Full press release about the fundraise can be found here.